Margarete Babinsky / Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra / Roger Epple / David Früwirth

Egon Wellesz: Piano Concerto; Violin Concerto

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Only a few Austrian composers (Webern, for example) elected to stay in their homeland after Nazi Germany annexed the country in 1938. Of those who left, some went to America (Schoenberg) while others went to England (Egon Wellesz). Whether they stayed or left, Austrian composers continued to write distinctly Austrian music in their own distinctive voices. In this disc of Wellesz's 1933 Piano Concerto and 1961 Violin Concerto, the musical language remains the same, fundamentally tonal in harmony, though with strong chromatic and atonal accents and essentially romantic in style, though with a dash more irony and a dollop more anguish. Both pieces are given exemplary performances by conductor Roger Epple leading the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, with Margarete Babinsky as the soloist in the Piano Concerto and David Frühwirth in the Violin Concerto. Babinsky has the muscle and stamina to get through the thickets of notes in her concerto, Frühwirth the incisive tone and impressive technique required by the strenuous demands of his concerto, and Epple coaxes a commanding performance from the Berlin Radio Symphony. If neither soloist is able to make a wholly persuasive case for either piece, part of the reason is that neither piece is entirely convincing. Wellesz's Piano Concerto sounds old-fashioned and tired for 1933 and the Violin Concerto sounds all the more so because it comes from 28 years later. There's no doubt that these are sincere and sophisticated pieces; there is some question, however, as to whether they transcend their time. Capriccio's sound is crisp, bright, and clean.

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